If you are in B2B sales, you’ve probably found yourself scouring the internet for customer service tips only to find countless articles and videos peppered with information and advice unfit for your needs.
It’s the reality — most articles on customer service improvement focus on B2C sellers servicing individual clients. Because the usual techniques that apply to B2C customers generally differ from the needs of those served by B2B’s, it comes as no surprise that B2B customer experience index ratings lag significantly behind their B2C counterparts, with the former averaging less than 50% compared to B2C’s 65-85% range.
But did you know that customer service is just as important in the B2B arena, if not even more so? In fact, a recent survey commissioned by LinkedIn revealed how start-ups with killer customer service are creating a serious problem for big business.
A report released by Accenture also shows that “many business-to-business (B2B) companies recognize customer experience is critical to growth and competitive differentiation, yet fewer than 25% of them excel at it.”
So, why do many B2B companies struggle in getting it right?
In a fast-paced world where clients expect fast, reliable, and effective solutions at the click of a mouse, how do B2B sales reps deliver excellent service that meet client expectations?
Read on to know the top 5 B2b customer service lessons that sales reps need to learn to stay on top of their game.
Know your customers like the back of your hand.
Knowing all of your customers and being able to provide efficient, working solutions to their problems ASAP is a crucial part of B2B sales success.
Remember that unlike B2C’s who usually deal with one-time purchases from individual customers, B2B companies ideally develop and maintain long-term relationships with clients whose needs may change over time.
This means that B2B sales reps need to have updated, in-depth and accurate knowledge of the different needs, goals, and targets of their clients. They must be flexible and sensitive enough to anticipate and address potential issues as they arise—way before the client becomes frustrated enough to switch to the competition.
There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all customer service.
In a B2B environment, there is not one single customer.
Instead, there are often multiple people involved in the sales process—from canvassing, selecting, testing, purchasing, to using, and troubleshooting the product within the customer company.
Multiple stakeholders can include CEO’s, purchasing departments, legal teams, operations managers, as well as the actual end users of the product or service. The sheer number of people involved makes the B2B customer experience a lot more complex compared to B2C, making it more challenging for B2B reps to identify and address client concerns.
This is where the pitfall of one-size-fits-all customer service commonly rears its head in B2B companies. In an effort to address the huge number of seemingly common, recurrent problems, many B2B reps opt to direct their clients to generic FAQ’s pages.
Now, FAQ’s pages aren’t all that bad—they certainly have a purpose for first-time users needing a walkthrough on using a product or service—they scarcely provide any value to a long-term user who’s been experiencing a recurrent problem not included in the FAQ’s page.
Instead of having a catch-all page that attempts (and often falls short) to answer customer concerns, why not send out a support email that elicits specific details regarding the problem?
This allows B2B companies to gather concrete data on the most common problems faced by clients and take action to resolve them. An email also reassures customers that their concerns are being heard by real people who can offer actual solutions.
Customer service is more than just a buzzword.
Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, once said that,
Customer service shouldn’t just be a department; it should be the entire company.
This means that B2B companies should make customer service and satisfaction an integral part of their day-to-day operations.
This doesn’t mean the customer always gets what they want, nor does it mean the customer is always right. It means that the company, including all of its employees, makes a commitment to providing the best kind of customer support able to meet the client’s expectations.
Remember that in B2B customer service, excellence or mediocrity can make or break an entire company. Because a B2B company’s clients are so few (and so precious) compared to B2C, word-of-mouth can have a huge impact on a company’s revenue—especially since research shows that 30-40% of B2B customers offer referrals IF their customer experience was a pleasant one.
Don’t hesitate to go digital.
In today’s world where almost everybody is on social media and has access to the internet, neglecting to maximize digital technology to improve customer service delivery can cost B2B companies serious dollars.
Remember that the influx of technology has spurred a tectonic shift in consumer behaviour—a recent report from the Aquity Group shows that more than two-thirds (68%) of B2B buyers now purchase goods online, 94% of B2B buyers say they conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product, 24% have made a purchase for their company using a mobile device, and 71% prefer to conduct research and purchase on their own with access to a sales representative via the phone or online chat if needed.
This means that B2B companies who under-invest in digital technology (such as eCommerce, customer self-service, digital sales and service integration, cloud-based sales, digital marketing, collaboration tools and mobile enablement) are likely to lose precious customers to competitors who, via digital means, are able to provide 24/7 support to customers wherever and whenever they need it.
Don’t forget the people behind the business.
B2B sales and marketing have a reputation for being staid and boring compared to their B2C counterparts. B2B sales reps often focus too much on mechanically enumerating the benefits and features of their products, often forgetting to add the right mix of creativity and personal touch to the sales process.
Don’t forget that even in B2B sales, actual people—not companies—buy products from people they like and respect. Good B2B sales reps still need to master the art of communicating and building rapport with their customers. After all, as an article in the Harvard Business Review says, “no amount of technology can improve a company’s sagging sales figures as long as companies are set up to market products rather than cultivate customers.”
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